Growing number of Czech children develop rare post-Covid syndrome

Photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

More than 200 children in the Czech Republic have been diagnosed with a rare condition that can occur several weeks after Covid-19, known as paediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome or PIMS-TS. If untreated,it can cause tissue damage, poor function of vital organs or potentially even death.

The PIMS-TS syndrome first appeared in the Czech Republic in the autumn during the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic. According to the head of the paediatric clinic in Prague’s Motol hospital, Jan Lebl, most doctors had not previously encountered such a medical condition.

“We were lucky that we could draw on the experience of other countries, which went through a more severe wave of coronavirus in the spring of 2020.

“During November and December, we put together a set of recommendations, how to diagnose this condition and how to treat it.”

The disease often involves rashes, a temperature of up to 40 °C, dangerously low blood pressure and abdominal pain. In serious cases its symptoms are similar to those of a toxic shock or sepsis.

Almost all of the children who were diagnosed with the PIMS-TS syndrome here in the Czech Republic had no previous medical history.

One of the mothers, whose daughter had to be hospitalised, described the experience to Czech Radio.

Illustrative photo: vperemencom,  Pixabay / CC0

“We had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night. Our daughter was vomiting, she wasn’t able to take in any liquids or medicine. Her tongue was dark red and covered with bumps. She had bloodshot eyes, cracked lips, and complained of a tummy ache and headache.”

After several weeks in hospital the girl was released into home care but she will have to remain in isolation for another month or so and undergo regular medical check-ups.

According to doctors, the syndrome causes the immune system to overreact and attack the body. If this happens, it is important that children receive urgent medical attention.

Professor Lebl says doctors have to block the abnormal reaction of the immune system by administering anti-inflammatory agents, namely immunoglobulins and corticosteroids.

The PIMS-TS syndrome usually appears in children two to six weeks after they contract the coronavirus, but it is still unclear why some children develop this condition:

“The risk of developing the syndrome is one to a thousand, which is a relatively small number. The problem is, however, that we cannot identify the children at risk.

“We have no idea what might be the risk factor for developing the syndrome. It is probably an individual response of the immune system, which would never manifest itself under normal conditions.”

Following their recovery, these children have to remain under close medical observation, since there are no sufficient data on the possible long-term effects of the disease.

Doctors warn that with the increasing number of overall confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Czech Republic, there is also an increasing number of children being diagnosed with the disease. While last year, most of the children had no symptoms, now they have them more frequently.